The first goods train carrying stone chips to Bangladesh through the revived Haldibari – Chilahati rail link will leave from Damdim station of Alipurduar Division in Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) on Saturday, 31 July, night. The train is expected to reach Bangladesh on 1st August.
Haldibari – Chilahati route will provide a shorter route for transit of goods into Bangladesh from Assam, West Bengal, Nepal and Bhutan. This rail link will enhance rail network accessibility to the main ports, dry ports and land borders to support the growth in regional trade and to encourage economic and social development of the region. Economic activities of these South Asian countries will also be benefitted from this new rail link.
The Haldibari – Chilahati rail link between India and the then East Pakistan was operational till 1965. This was part of the Broad Gauge main route from Kolkata to Siliguri during partition. Trains travelling to Assam and North Bengal continued to travel through the then East Pakistan territory even after partition. However, the war of 1965 effectively cut off all the railway links between India and the then East Pakistan.
The Haldibari-Chilahati rail link was inaugurated on 17 December last year during the virtual bilateral summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh. However due to the Covid pandemic, regular train services could not be started in the section since then, said a press release by the Northeast Frontier railway.
At present, five rail routes connect Bangladesh and India namely Petrapole-Benapole, Gede-Darshana, Singhabad-Rohanpur, Radhikapur-Birol and Haldibari-Chilahati.